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4 Ways to Practise Self-care in a Relationship

When in a relationship, you have to remember that in order to be the best you can be, it’s important to take care of yourself – not just your better half.

By April Zara Chua

Self Care​ ​With responsibilities and commitments – adulting, basically – carving time out for ourselves can be challenging in our hectic lives. Self-care might even be regarded as selfishness, but wellness and relationship experts agree that finding ‘me-time’ in a ‘we’ is important in creating happier, healthier and stronger relationships.

What exactly is self-care? It can mean different things to different people. According to the American Psychological Association, self-care is a means to provide attention to your own physical and psychological wellness. When you take care of yourself, you’ll be more rested, more patient and more understanding, allowing you to better care for your partner and loved ones.

Not sure where to start? Take a leaf from some of these self-care tips from real life couples

Tip #1: Don’t wait until you’re exhausted

We tend to mirror the energy and moods of people close to us, so if you’re feeling stressed out or tired, chances are, your partner can feel it too. Self-care shouldn’t be something you do when you’re already run down. Instead, cultivate a habit of doing small things for yourself regularly and not waiting until you’re completely exhausted. Shane Lim, 29, and his girlfriend, Jemimah Wei, 27, can attest to this, having developed their own self-care rituals.

“Jemimah gifted me this routine. Before I sleep, I apply some serum to get rid of my eye bags, moisturiser for my face and a sleeping mask as part of my nightly skin care routine. Then I turn on the humidifier in my room and look forward to a great night’s sleep!” - Shane

“I wake up at 5:30am and go to the gym, have breakfast alone, then read for an hour before starting work at 9:30 every weekday. The time alone early in the morning really helps me get into a focused mind space.” - Jemimah

Tip #2: Self-care doesn’t have to be a solo activity

Don’t get it wrong, self-care doesn’t always mean spending time or doing things alone, it can also mean doing something with your partner, family or friends. The key is doing something for yourself that gives you joy and invigorates you. Sikai Goh and Wong Yan Ting, both 26, find balancing spending time together and pursuing their individual hobbies work well for them.

“I’m very into tech and innovation so I find it therapeutic when I tinker around with my gadgets. I’m also always looking out for new shows to watch on Netflix, and I can even watch the same series over and over again like Friends and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Sometimes I watch with Yan Ting because we both like the same shows.” - Sikai

“My me-time is usually spent at spin class. It’s a good time for me to shut off and I don't have to think about anything for 45 minutes, I find that it really helps me recharge. Sikai and I also find it fun to going shopping on weekends. There’s really nothing like retail therapy.” - Yan Ting

Tip #3: Enjoy the simple things

One of the misconceptions about self-care is that it has to involve costs, no thanks to social media uploads showing luxurious solo holidays, spa days and other extravagant indulgences. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive to be enjoyed – take it from Au Han-Jet, 41, and his wife Daphne Chew, 38, who have been married for 10 years. They find that the little things hold far greater value in maintaining their bond as a couple and keeping themselves centred as individuals.

“As a couple, we love going for nature walks. We just put on our shoes and go, with no phones and earphones. Being close to nature can do wonders to lift the spirit and we like sharing this experience with one another. When I need some me-time, I read, binge watch anime or play computer games.” - Han-Jet

Self Care“I enjoy journaling as it allows me to reflect and meditate on the day or week. I find cleaning helps too, as I can just focus on the task at hand and ignore everything else. After I’m done cleaning, I always feel super accomplished and satisfied. We also practise self-care with each other with little things like welcoming each other home with a hug. Hugs are free and it strengthens our bond.” - Daphne

Tip #4: Make it a priority

Life can get busy and it’s easy to put off doing things for yourself when you feel your attention is needed somewhere else. But your personal well-being deserves as much attention as the next task on your to-do list, so you need to prioritise it. Despite the 24/7 rigour of caring for a newborn, first-time parents Amrish Nair, 32, and wife, Shanthini Sandramohan, 31, make arrangements to include pockets of time-out whenever they can.

“It was a struggle initially to find time for ourselves. So, we made sure that our little one had a bedtime routine where she’ll be tucked in by 9pm – that’s when I can read a few chapters of my book, watch an episode of my favourite show or meet friends for supper.” - Amrish

“My in-laws babysit our daughter, so my husband and I can have time for ourselves once every few weeks. We spend the day just relaxing by going for massages and dinner dates. Amrish and I also take turns to be with the baby so we both can have our own me-time which I spend shopping and catching up with my girlfriends.” - Shanthini

Even if you’re unsure where to begin, just remember that self-care is all about taking care of yourself like how you would take care of your partner and loved ones. It can be as simple as tuning in to your favourite playlist while heading to work, a 15-minute walk in the park, or even a quick phone call with your BFF!